Hot off the heels from a few posts ago about Beanee Weenee, a childhood classic popular in the Southern US, we revisit another meat-in-a-can classic, the infamous canned Corned Beef.
This of course different than the REAL Corned Beef and Cabbage made with brined uncooked brisket which needs to be boiled with potatoes, carrots and seasoning that you normally eat with yellow mustard on and around St. Patrick’s Day.
While growing up, I remember only eating the made in Brazil Libby, Mcneill & Libby’s brand canned Corned Beef with the red and black label, which came with that funky screw key stuck to it that you need to use to open the odd-shaped tapered rectangular can. Speaking of which, I also remember once or twice breaking the metal twist tab ring while trying to open the can with that key, then somewhat frustrated, just giving up and putting the half-opened can in the refrigerator. It’s like “Eh, screw this.” lol
Reason I thought this would be an interesting topic, isn’t just the nostalgia of it, but also the vast varieties now available at the local supermarket. In my case as you regulars here know for me is Don Quijote Kaheka, where they now carry several other brands besides Libby’s Corned Beef, including a variety of flavors by Palm, the popular brand from New Zealand, Ox & Palm, Globe, Crown Brand and Pacific, all from Australia, and Argentina Brand Corned Beef.
Yet wow. With that much to choose, looks like corned beef is as popular in South America and “down under” in the Pacific, as pork luncheon meat is here centrally in Hawaii and Guam.
Apparently canned corned beef is also popular in the South Pacific islands, including Micronesia and Fiji, as I first learned about this while visiting Fiji Market out in Kahuku not that long ago. There, along with Micronesia Mart on Kapiolani Boulevard, you’ll also find most of these corned beef varieties from Australia and New Zealand. Which makes sense, being those countries are close in geographical proximity to those South Pacific islands.
That said, while I didn’t ask the manager, I assume Don Quijote just started bringing in these products for that customer demo’, as this is something relatively new there. Before they mainly carried either Libby’s or Palm (only the regular corned beef), and that’s it.
As you see on the shelf at Don Quijote in the photo above, there’s four different Corned Beef flavors by Palm brand out of New Zealand: Chili, Onion, Barbecue and Garlic.
On this next shelf section, notice there’s Globe brand Corned Mutton, also from Australia, which in case you don’t know, is a unique hybrid breed of Crocodile and Kangaroo. Nah, just kidding. lol
Mutton is a castrated male or female sheep on the older side, whereas there’s lamb, which is a young sheep, similar to what a calf is to a cow. While I haven’t tried Corned Mutton, if it’s anything like “SITA” (coming up shortly), I’d say it has a somewhat gamey lamb flavor due in part to its high fat content.
I personally have never seen either the Pacific or Argentina Brand “Corned Beef in Sauce” before, nor the Crown Brand in the next photo. New to me.
Gotta say, at almost $10 a can, that better be the best dang canned Corned Beef & Cabbage I ever ate! It better taste like “Corned Kobe Beef”!
Now “SITA” as shown in the photo above is known as “Camp Luncheon Loaf” or pie, made with a combination corned mutton and beef lips and tongue, along with some other fillers, hence it’s the corned “meat” version of pork-based luncheon meat such as SPAM. Those “parts” and fillers are what makes “SITA” much cheaper than its 100% corned beef canned cousins next to it. You can check out my full review, including how that got turned into a “SITA Musubi” here. Oh, and be afraid if you go there. Very afraid. lol
Speaking of afraid, like most canned meats, the nutritional values in a typical can of corned beef are going to raise some eyebrows. Looking at the Nutritional Facts of an 11.5 oz. can of Ox & Palm Corned Beef (product of Australia by H.J. Heinz), a 2 oz. serving hits you with 150 calories, with 110 fat calories, 11 grams total fat, 5g saturated fat, 36mg cholesterol, 300mg sodium, 0g fiber and sugar, 11g protein, along with 6% DV of iron.
The ingredients are: Beef, Water, Salt & Sodium Nitrite.
So yeah, canned corned beef and cabbage is how I grew up eating the stuff, and occasionally still do today. It’s good grindz if you have “da’ ono’s” for it, or if that’s all you have left in your pantry and fridge to eat since the last grocery run.
While I honestly can’t remember how my grandmother exactly made canned corned beef and cabbage for us (never hung out in the kitchen when I was young), the way I make it now is simply by sauteing onions first until they’re slightly softened. Then I add the canned corned beef and saute that to loosen and heat it up, but not let it get crispy by any means. I then add some shoyu for added “kick”, then finally the rough chopped cabbage until it’s just around al dente, still with some crunch to it. While doing that, I’ll drizzle water in the pan to help steam the cabbage as it cooks, while that also creates some “gravy” as the water mixes with the juices from the corned beef and onion-infused shoyu, which is great for flavoring the rice it will eventually be piled on to.
For me, one of the best things to eat with Corned Beef and Cabbage other than rice is, yup, Poi my boy! Oh yeah! Da’ bes’es’est! The salty, flavor-packed corned beef when combined with the neutral, starchy taro flavor of da’ poi is supah ono! In fact, my mom used to sometimes eat the corned beef COLD, all congealed and all, straight out of the can with poi. I thought that was kinda’ gross, but she loved it!
That said, Mom used to always remind us about da’ hard times, when she and my dad were young and struggling while living in a small house in Waikiki, when my mom was the bread winner working in the airline industry (HAL) while putting my dad through college, corned beef was one of their favorite go-to foods, which was all they could afford at the time. That, with rice and/or poi was breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. And Vienna Sausage, Pork and Beans and all the other canned meats us Hawaii folks love. So whenever we ate corned beef, there was this sense of appreciation about it, as sort of a “fuel for success” if you will.
While I don’t remember my grandmother making it, I do like Corned Beef Hash, especially the Okazuya style when it’s made from scratch with potatoes, not the one prefab’ in the can. Diner E once made a Corned Beef Hash Musubi, which was quite genius in build, and supah ono! I loved it!
One dish I never tried is Samoan Palusami, either the traditional version with just coconut milk and onion, or Palusami with Corned Beef; both of which sounds intriguing.
As for brand preference, like I said, I grew up with the classic Libby, McNeill & Libby’s brand Corned Beef in the black can, and only later when New Zealand’s Palm Corned Beef came around in stores, started preferring that, which is definitely a superior product, IMO. I have yet to try the other canned corned beef products as shown above, which I’ll review here in the future, starting most likely with the Palm brand Onion and/or Garlic Corned Beef.
What memories of canned corned beef do you have while growing up? How did you and your folks eat it? If you still do, how do you prepare it now? Any particular brand you prefer?
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